Due 12/1/18 by 7am



You made it! (or you didn’t and that’s okay too- no really it is I’ve only finished about half the time when I try to do these. Kids, ya know? Life. Etc.)

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Why do this? Well, for me it goes back to the essence of theater and promoting it as inherently an act of play - even the writing of it!-  dangerous, delightful, adult, play.

It’s a bit of a yogic practice to be sure- good days and bad days- but it’s a mistake to try to hold back the waters and pray that it all works out when the dam bursts. It’s much better to live your life- idk why the water metaphor but--- building up muscles walking next to the creative river.

Anyway- last challenge. Here it is:

CHALLENGE: YOU. Rewrite a play of someone else’s. From this challenge. From classic works. From whatever. Boil it down to yourself with a sentence like “essentially this is a play about bad bosses- just like when I worked at Groupon (or whatever).” Then rewrite the play from your perspective, your life markers, yours and you and u.

Make it personal. A campfire story about how you got here.

And… add a dream sequence in the middle

Make it theatrical. Make it a rain dance.

Then smack us back down into the reality of the first part of the play.

Don’t forget to advocate for yourself.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

Obama says “Don’t boo, vote.”

I say “Don’t bitch, write.”

I love you for reading these.

I love you for choosing an artist's life. You are a leader in your community whether you feel like one or not. Whether they express it or not, other (muggle) people know you’re dangerous, powerful, and creative. They know you’re full of mystery and potential.

Honor yourself at the end of this.

Heal. Rest. Rest.

Celebrate it AS a thing. The end product is YOU- not the writing. The writing can’t happen without you, being in tune, doing that river walk (see above).

‘Til next year!



I’ll look at whomever finishes this last challenge and assume you’ve completed the challenge. I’ll do the math and share it with those names (I think I’ve got all the avatar emails figured out) and

Please let me know if you’d rather not be paid for any reason. I THINK I can just send funds to you the same way you paid. Or paypal. We’ll figure it out.  Thanks!


CHALLENGE: Lies and Asides

Due 11/30 by 7am CST (the penultimate one!)

Write a play where one or more character speaks to the audience in asides.

Asides are always truthful, so write lots of lies in the dialogue

Use dramatic irony- if both characters would only open up and be honest with each other, the impending tragedy would not be about to happen!

Asides are really only in morality tales- sadly I believe. Prove me wrong!

Use life and death stakes

Bonus: Make yourself one of the characters- and the asides your most vulnerable thoughts. Change the names to protect the innocent



Due 11/29 by 7am CST

Let’s calm this shit down. :)

In my undergrad I took a class on post-Yugoslavia drama. The class was taught by a Serbian dramaturg and in the class was a Bosnian refugee who’d had family members killed by the civil war/genocide that’d happened there. The Serbian dramaturg had left long before the war, and was very very soft and nice and tiny and gay. Picture the opposite of whatever energy is needed to kill someone else through violence. Still, they had flair-ups. It’s understandable.

America is so far from post-Yugoslavia. If you say “war” here it means something somewhere else. It doesn’t mean the thing that killed my uncle and is why dad has a limp.

There were two types of drama that stuck out at me from this class which seemed uniquely “war-torn”. One was a dark sensibility where death became a pragmatic solution to the problem of life. Life (especially one’s own) had little value. Sell your body for sex to get a small discount on groceries. Kill your neighbor’s cat because you’re allergic. Blame others for the subjugation they find themselves in. Die needlessly for a cause that you don’t believe in.

That sucks.

Then there was another kind. It was calm and soothing. It HAD theatrical energy- things still surprised and united the audience- but it did so in a way that was unbelievably light and beautiful and uncontroversial. Think of the Blue Man Group, but with the energy and tenderness of a mother putting her child to bed. Now, this was still about something. There was a central issue or crime that had happened- that was safely in the past, but still present. Like workers cleaning the blood from the wall where a mass execution had happened, or gardeners planting flowers around a fresh grave. Or a family preparing a meal without the deceased mother.


Use: a simple plot with a physical objective that has an obvious resolution- cleaning, cooking, etc

Involve: some real pain from the past

Use: magic- remember the flashbacks? Do that again, but don’t flashback. Let the magic LIVE in the moment- perhaps unseen by the characters.

Use: Your own life. Don’t try to heal something you don’t understand.

Caution: It’s valuable therapy but hard to do this on an issue you haven’t yet healed from yourself.

Side story: One of Red Theater’s early plays involved “nap time” as it was for students during “hell week” before finals and we turned down the lights, lit a slow disco ball, and played soft music. The actors all laid down on the stage and wished each other “good night.” It was beautiful, unexpected, and accidentally very powerful for these lonely strung-out students. If I was writing it now, I’d add some gentle voice assuring the students that they have what it takes. They will get it all done. It’ll be okay. While featuring on stage a desk with papers and books and a phone “blowing up” with notifications… then calming.


Flashbacks are a trope of the cinema…and generally bad writing. Let’s do flashbacks!

What people REALLY mean is that flashbacks are exposition mistaken for dramatic narrative. No matter how much emotion you put in them, they are just pushing “pause” on the main plot and giving context to the thing we’re supposed to care about. The really annoying thing, is that if you’re already breaking Realism’s convention of a uniform time and place to teleport somewhere else, why not also break OTHER established norms and expectations/laws of physics (inherently theatrical) if it helps to more powerfully and poetically EXPRESS the truth. = expressionism.


  • Start with a generic A/B scene that could really be about anything. I’ll include one below, expound on it or write your own.

  • Use flashbacks as a tool of expressionism to fill in the blanks. Provide context that make the lines land with brutal specificity.

  • Start with an image in each flashback. Don’t worry about staging practicalities right now. Clothing can come on and off and on in a flash.

  • Add your own dialogue in the flashbacks. Or don’t. Don’t tell me what to do. I didn’t.

  • Play with time (speed up, slow down, reverse)

  • Play with scale (put the audience in-between the lips of a single kiss - or racist epithet)

  • Make the invisible… visible. (SHOW us sound- a heart beat- a clock tick- a train passing by)

  • Stay efficient and theatrical. Say 1000 words with an image rather than speak 100.

Generic scene:

A: Hi

B: Hey

A: Hay’s for horses

B: What?

A: Sorry

B: That’s what I thought

A: What? I was being funny. I’m a funny pony.

B: Is this going how you wanted it to go?

A: It’s not going much of anywhere it seems

B: Sorry

A: You’re not though

B: I guess I’m not. Are you?

A: I’m getting there. I could get there. You?

B: I’m way past it.

A: Come back.

B: It doesn’t work like that.

A: We’re just making it up as we go

B: And that’s the problem

A: Forget the past. Live in the moment

B: I’m a planner.

A: Let’s plan on it then

B: Get your calendar. And…

A: And?

B: Make the first entry, horsey.



due 11/27/18 by 7am

So, based on my super boring definition of theatrical energy (heretofore uncontested as the definitive definition of theater ever assembled in the English language)… are public stonings and hangings theater?

Let’s do one and find out.

First, find a religious or governmental text that demands punishment by death.


CHALLENGE: Kill someone on stage for committing a crime.

Get yer hackles up! Be cruel. CRUEL.

Also, elevate this villain. Make the cruelty a necessity for proper cleansing.

NO FOURTH WALL (duh- fourth walls suck)

Heck, invite the audience to participate.

Use social media in some way, if you can stomach it. I know a lot of you HATE social media on stage because, well, it’s something nobody has really mastered yet.


THIS IS NOT A COMEDY (unless you want it to b … and then chuckle away ya freaky goofball!)

DO NOT KILL THE PRESIDENT (that’s tomorrow. killing the president is more of a Tuesday thing. Monday is cleaning. Wednesday is laundry.)

THIS IS A RAIN DANCE (probably- it’s also totally possible to make this a calm sacrificial campfire story—- but you heavily risk sliding back into morality tale)

Consider non-proscenium staging. This is a good elevated round or alley moment. Why does that matter for how you write?

Well, it’s about what works best in each.

Elevated round is about hope and judgement

Compare contrast and time shifts are best in alley.

Don’t believe me? Don’t worry! I’m just making it up…. but I’m right though. I am.

Is arrogance a crime worthy of a death sentence?


CHALLENGE: Write an immersive modern Morality Tale

The third ancient form of theater that arrived after campfire stories and rain dances, were morality tales. Rather than speak from a place of camaraderie in communion with the audience as in campfire and rain dances, the church elevated themselves and spoke from a place of authority.

Traveling pageant performances were (kinda?) the first immersive theater!

With the decline of the Right in America from Pat Robertson cultural dominance to fringe, at least in Chicago- the theater has changed from a place where sinners can revel in excess and immorality or counter-morals. No longer is the stage a place to display the complex worst in humanity without a moralistic bow. Now, and for many, the stage is the place for extreme morality, challenging the old, bovine audiences with how vastly superior our world-view is over theirs. The “dangerous questions” are less “how will you handle knowing we are all sinners?” and more “how dare you label me with your bigoted microaggressions?”

Enraged? Look, I’m trying to provoke you. Is that irresponsible of me? Well, write a response play that puts me in my place. Or put someone else in their place. The point is, use your moral superiority to make a beacon for others to follow you into a more acceptable place.

Morality Tale Tips

  • Cover a truly difficult issue or… perhaps attack “your own” with something like veganism or vaccines

  • Use an Everyman that represents the audience. Heck, perhaps pull someone literally from the audience.

  • Consider a haunted house as a setting

  • Use Ideals as character names, like Justice, Truth, Hope… Crystal

  • Either the play moves around the audience like a parade, or the audience parades from room to room through the play.

  • Use elaborate and fantastical costumes

  • Use masks

  • Invoke horror

  • Play with scale- so that in one room we’re micro-organisms perhaps and another we’re the size of Godzilla




Due 11/24 by 7am CST

SO A FRIEND OF MINE WROTE about the above link

Hey, Bill Maher, you classless twit, maybe if more people in this country read comics, they would have recognized the poorly written one-dimensional would-be cartoon super villain currently in the White House for the bad rip-off of Lex Luthor that he is.

To which I wrote:

Huh! I totally agree with him though. "The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important." What's classless about what he wrote? Don't we have a problem in this country distinguishing between actual smart people and people who act like smart people?

And then

Maher's complaint is that "adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature." It's about maturity, not intelligence. I, too, am confused by my fellow adults who keep gobbling up the same formulaic, shallow stories about magic authority figures removing our agency and saving us from our own problems. It's daddy-worship. It's kids stuff. AND it can be a fun night out. To hold Stan Lee up alongside the much more complex (and less blindly problematic) stories of great artists seems strange. Stan Lee is Jr High Doctor Seuss. That's not nothing, but it's nowhere near the top. I'm told that even inside the format of the graphic novel, he's nowhere near the top.

It’s dumb. The whole thing is dumb re: my involvement in any way wasting my time on this.

So the challenge is to stage a Facebook fight.

It can be about anything, but this Stan Lee subject has legs.

Structure: FANTASY COMEDY SANDWICH - where seriousness is the bread and comedy breaks out in the middle.

Put it inside some other event like a first date, funeral, or wedding. The fight is happening in the ether all around Greek Chorus style.


Someone has to reference Hitler

Someone has to call someone racist

Someone has to post a ton of links to bad sources and someone has to call them out

Someone has to become a GIF troll


No computer should ever be on stage.